- Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced an expansion of the Purple Star Schools of Distinction program
- The state added 114 new schools to the initiative encompassing ten school districts
- The designation recognizes schools that support the needs of military families, laying the foundation for a series of programs that assist military‐connected students in moving and adapting to a new school
- The program was established in 2021, receiving widespread bipartisan support
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an expansion of the Purple Star Schools of Distinction program on Tuesday, adding 114 across ten school districts in Florida.
35 schools within Okaloosa County will receive the distinction, the most out of any school district, with the remaining seventy-nine belonging to Brevard, Citrus, Clay, Duval, Escambia, Hillsborough, Walton, Monroe, and Santa Rosa counties.
According to the governor, the Okaloosa County School District accounts for more military-connected students than any other school district in Florida, with more than 5,600.
The designation recognizes schools that support the needs of military families, laying the foundation for a series of programs that assist military‐connected students in navigating challenges and providing resources when transitioning to a new school environment.
Schools participating in the program are required to have six core tenants: a military point of contact, an informative school webpage, a comprehensive transition program for children of military families, professional development specialized for military students, controlled open enrollment, and additional activities.
“I think what we are able to do is move the ball forward across a wide variety of fronts,” said DeSantis. “We look forward to continuing to serve the families of active duty military personnel.”
Each school under the distinction will have designated a school counselor, teacher, principal, or assistant principal as the Military Point of Contact (MPOC) for the school to serve as the central liaison with military families.
The MPOC is responsible for assisting military families with student enrollment, records transfer, accessing services for students with disabilities, and accessing school-based resources that are available in the district for military students and their families.
Further, schools will have a student-led transition program to assist military students coming into the school. The program includes a student serving as transition team coordinator, a military peer-support system linking new military students with others at the school within 2 weeks of arrival, and a process for familiarizing new students with the school campus.
“This designation is important, not just because of designation, but because of the flexibility that these schools are providing military families who go through this change, especially for the students,” said Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. “By having this designation it sends a clear message to the Department of Defense that our bases here in Florida are supported completely by the education system to make sure our students and military families are taken care of.
The program, established through the passage of House Bill 429 in 2021 and sponsored by Representatives Andrew Learned (D) and Patt Maney, received widespread bipartisan support.